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Sulfuric Acid: Pumping up the Volume


This article is a concise history of sulfuric acid from the suggestion that it was known in the 10th century to the firm knowledge of how to prepare it in the late 15th century. Crude processes evolved through the 18th century when it was discovered that glass holding containers could be replaced with lead boxes. This lead cathedral construction reached chamber sizes of 10 x 10 x 12 feet with 100 chambers in a facility. Sulfuric acid was used for making dyes, hydrochloric acid, nitric acid and cloth bleaching. In 1827 Joseph-Louis Gay-Lussac built a tower which recovered the nitrogen oxide gasses reducing the consumption of saltpeter. A later contact process allowed for higher concentration, and finally catalytic processes developed. Today, sulfuric acid is the most widely produced industrial chemical worldwide.

Todays Chemist at Work
September 2001, pp. 57-58

 

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